This is the second largest gift the university has ever received.
The letter from Rep. Wolf asks questions about what is taught at the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding: have they ever produced a report critical of Saudi Arabia? Rep. Wolf says the Saudi government has financed activities that are suspected of supporting Islamic militants and extremists; he asks for assurances that the center “maintains the impartiality and integrity of scholarship” befitting that of a great university.
According to The Washington Post report, “The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a congressional bipartisan panel that assesses and proposes U.S. foreign policy action, has cited Saudi Arabia as a country of special concern.” It wrote in its 2007 annual report, “The government of Saudi Arabia engages in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief,” yet they continue to create centers of learning at major universities throughout our country.
Closer to home, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs has generously funded a University of Delaware Islamic Studies scholar. According to the UD press release (http://www.udel.edu/PR/NewsReleases/2008/feb/2-18-08/grant.html), political scientist and Brookings Institution fellow, Muqtedar Khan, was awarded a grant worth $494,368. The press release said this grant is designed to “… initiate a dialogue on religion and politics between key members of religious and community organizations in the Middle East and the United States.” This is the same scholar who, last fall, raised concerns about serving on an academic panel with a fellow Middle East Affairs specialist because he was a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces.
Rep. Wolf’s letter is a welcome step toward ensuring that our universities maintain their high standards of political and religious freedom. It is now, more than ever, important that all voices be heard.